Road And Rail Expansion Has Carried Alien Invasive Species High Into The Himalayas In Kashmir

A survey that is part of a global study by the Mountain Invasion Research Network has revealed that road and rail expansion have carried alien invasive species high into the Himalayas in Kashmir.

Botanist Pervaiz Dar spent a good amount of time in 2012 and 2017 squatting and walking along roadsides in Kashmir, including at mountain pass Sinthan Top, surveying invasive alien plant species – plants that do not originally call Kashmir home but are now rapidly spreading into the region and creeping upwards into the mountains driven by expansion of infrastructure.

Surveying these plants in a T-shaped study plot, with the base of the T along the mountain roads and the limb of the T stretching away from them, Dar witnessed a myth unravel. “Mountains are no longer spared from invasive alien species. They are increasing in numbers and frequency over time,” Dar told Mongabay-India.

Field thistles with clusters of purple flowers (Cirsium arvense), mats of white clover (Trifolium repens) and small tumbleweed mustard with bright yellow flowers (Sisymbrium loeselii) are silently creeping up along mountain roads in Kashmir Himalayas in India and expanding their spread. Disturbances in the soil due to construction help alien plants to get to newer habitats.

Dar’s survey is part of a global study by Mountain Invasion Research Network that reveals the spread of invasive alien plant species into higher altitudes has rapidly accelerated along transport routes. Through surveys along mountain roads in southern and central Chile, two regions of Australia, Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, Switzerland, Hawaii and two regions of western USA, Kashmir in India, and Norway, the study shows “consistent increases” in the number of alien plant species and their swift spread into higher elevations between 2007 and 2017.

Disturbances in the soil due to construction help invasive alien plants to get to newer habitats. Surveys were carried out along Sinthan Top mountain pass in Kashmir. Credit: Pervaiz Dar/Mongabay

According to AccuWeather, California is at risk due to a new atmospheric river, which will likely lead to torrential rainfall in some areas and very heavy snow over the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada and Siskyous.

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